Before We Begin (Monster Meetings and Daniel O'Connell; A Vigorous Opening and Mrs. O'Kelly; Money and "Schaming”; The Irish Lilt; No Juvenilia

Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001
From: "Howard Merkin"
To: "Trollope List"

Re: Kellys & O'Kellys: Before We Begin

The first two or three chapters deal at some length with the prosecution of Daniel O'Connell and his colleagues by the British Government because they wanted to repeal the Act of Union, which had been imposed on the Irish in 1801. It doesn't really matter for the appreciation of the novel whether you understand this at all, but for any list member who is interested, the subject is covered fairly clearly in the Historical Note which appears as an Appendix to the Oxford World's Classics edition, introduced by William Trevor.

For those without access to the World 's Classics edition, I would summarise the story as follows. Basically, the Repeal Movement, which had huge support, had been backed up by Monster Meetings, which had evidently frightened the Government. They accordingly did the usual Establishment thing of banning, on the previous day, the meeting scheduled for Clontarf on 8th October 1843. They then paraded an array of troops to deal with what they expected to be an enraged population. O'Connell had posted announcements that the meeting was called off, so that although many people turned up (no TV or radio announcements in those days), there was no trouble, both the people and the troops behaving in a responsible and entirely friendly manner.

This evidently disappointed the Government, who arrested O'Connell and ten others on charges of conspiracy, sedition and unlawful assembly. The jury was rigged, the judges were clearly partial to the Protestant ascendancy, and all except one of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment and substantial fines on 30th May 1844. The verdicts were eventually overturned in the House of Lords in the autumn.

If I have misrepresented any part of the proceedings, I hope that Rory, as our specialist in things Irish, will correct me. I would particularly welcome his help on one point that puzzles me. The ten accused were known as 'the traversers', and this description is used regularly throughout the early chapters of the novel. The Historical Note referred to above says that the defendants were known as 'traversers' because 'they had _traversed_ the indictment'. This leaves me none the wiser, and no dictionary that I have gives any definition of 'traverse' other than the common one of crossing something. Can Rory or some legal expert tell me whether 'traversing an indictment' means anything comprehensible?

Incidentally, I entirely agree with Ellen that William Trevor's introduction is far superior to that of Terence de Vere White in the Trollope Society and Folio editions.

Regards, Howard

Date: Sun, 1 Jul 2001

Hello all

Thanks to Howard for the historical background to The Kellys and the O’Kellys ­ I too turned to the historical footnote in the Oxford edition before starting to read and found it very helpful in setting the scene.

I also found a couple of helpful websites about Daniel O’Connell and thought I’d pass on the links:

Unfortunately, however, neither of these sheds any light on the puzzling term “traverser”. Thanks to Rory for finding a likely explanation.

Bye for now
Judy Geater

Date: Sun, 01 Jul 2001 08:37:30 +0100 Status:

At 07:49 01/07/01, Judy Geater wrote:

Unfortunately, however, neither of these sheds any light on the puzzling term "traverser". Thanks to Rory for finding a likely explanation.

I'm awaiting the legal opinion on the matter. One line in the Historical Note in the Oxford Kellys and O'Kellys is of interest. This is (p518 Oxford ed)[The Judge[ adverted to the assertion ascribed to the conspirators, that the Legislative Union is 'in itself unlawful' and 'absolutely void', the consequence of which might be, that every statute made since the Union relating to Ireland, would be void and of no legal effect.

I think this might give us a clue. If O'Connell et alia denied the legality of the indictment because they asserted that the Union was void, we could certainly see that they were in a different position to being merely conspirators in a matter of grave civic disorder

Rory O'Farrell .

Greetings to all from a new subscriber in Damascus.

Definition, a teacher of mine said, is the job of the dictionary-maker. Black's Law Dictionary (Abridged Fifth Edition, 1983) defines "Traverse" as follows; "In common law pleading, a traverse signifies a denial. Thus, where a defendant denies any material allegation of fact in the plaintiff's declaration, he is said to traverse it, and the plea itself is thence frequently termed a 'traverse'."

I hope this helps.

Suleiman M. Ahmad

To Trollope-l

July 1, 2001

Re: The Kellys and O'Kellys, Chs 1-6: Vigorous Opening & Mrs O'Kelly

I too would like to welcome Suleiman from Damascus and thank him for his sensible concise citation. There probably are resonances to the use of the term which the simple dictionary definition doesn't reach for: thus in context, someone who denied an indictment in a country whose foundational law (the Union with England) was under siege would indeed (to use Rory's words) be "in a different position to being merely conspirators in a matter of grave civic disorder." They are revolutionaries, radicals, subversive of the basis of order. So "traversers" would become a form of political name-calling.

Still as Howard suggests, we don't need to remember the details all that much, just the hum and buzz, the general feel of the time Trollope is creating. As Todd's posting suggests this framing is part of Trollope's depiction of a milieu in which the various characters are scrambling for position, for money, for security and peace of mind in an uncertain order. Perhaps more is meant that that too. In this opening Trollope locates the different activities of his characters on the day of the trial with respect to where and when the trial takes place. Later in the book he introduces an Anglican clergyman and (as I recall) a Catholic one: we are to compare their usefulness, their integration with the Irish communities about them, and their prejudices (one is prejudiced and unfair, not a good guy; the other is decent, and plays an important role in the final denouement). In addtion Trollope reverts to this trial several times in the book. So there is a political theme working itself out, and a cultural one too. Perhaps because we have just read Scott's historical novel, and are beginning Thackeray's and I have been listening to Eliot's I am aware of how Trollope is in the swing of things to present us with this historical-cultural framing. Eliot also breaks away from her historial framing to get into her story. I can see that Thackeray is going to make the history itself integral to the main story of his characters; so too does Scott. But Eliot doesn't.

19th Century writers seem to have been intensely aware of themselves as living in a wider world, in crowds, and in the effect on immediate political and local happenings of crowd behavior. Romola opens with a crowd scene too -- so too Hugo's novels. What I struck by is the vigor of these five (or six) chapters. They are written with great energy and strength. There is also intense passion -- and fear -- in the story of Barry's attempt to terrify his sister into submission, in his savage hitting of her, his threat (which he could have made good) to thrust her into an asylum. Chapter 5 in the Trollope/Folio Society edition and Chapters 5-6 in the Oxford/Lane are powerful: we see Barry from the point of view of Anty and he is a nightmare thug, treacherous, and out of control. There is an inwardness in the presentation which makes the depiction so visceral. We miss this in most authors; we are up close to these characters.

They are also intensely realistic. Sig has been suggesting that Scott's weakness is he is too romantic. Certainly you cannot accuse Mr Trollope of too much romance in this opening. Note how accurate and truthful he is to the earthy scenes in the kitchens and houses; how he doesn't idealise or soften the motives of any of the characters. Yet at the same time he doesn't make the characters overly sordid, overly harsh -- as one does see Balzac tends to do. I would say that Frank O'Kelly, Lord Ballantine, is not shown as having any affection for Fanny Wyndham as yet so we cannot feel on our pulses that he likes her as well as being in need and want of her money, but we see enough of Martin and his mother and sisters to realise they also like Anty. Martin is drawn to her nature and she is presented appealingly - while by no means idealised: older, plain, herself determined to hold onto her money (she gets herself an agent), she is a vivid sketch of an Irish version of the later Miss Mackenzie. Rather than by nature poignant and sensitive, we are shown that she has low self-esteem and tries to get herself little in life, because she has been brought up by people who repressed and bullied her, who wanted to get rid of her by putting her into a nunnery -- which again she held out against.

Not only are the scenes and characters fully realised in complex ways which are not distanced from ordinary motives and pragmatic realities, this book is rich in particulars. Since we have been reading the later books I can't help but compare chapter length. These are much longer chapters than the ones we have been reading. Trollope is not sketching this world in; he is pouring detail, nuance, working at filling out historical, cultural and psychological details. He is careful on his structuring: our instalment this week ends on a dramatic note. Barry comes to Mrs O'Kelly to demand his sister back.

Consider the commercial failure of The Macdermots -- and the derision (as well as some respect) it evoked. Consider that Trollope nonetheless knew it was a fine book, a serious political tragedy about Ireland in the later 1830s. But does he give up? No. He is working very hard in this book according to some very definite ideas in his mind about what a novel ought to be morally and aesthetically as well as determined to hold our attention strongly. Some of the strongest moments in the novel are the sheer frank invective of Trollope's tracing in Barry's mind his desire to murder his sister ("the his mind began to dwell on her death and to wish for it", Oxford Kellys, ed., introd. McCormack, Ch 4, pp. 50-52). But it is equally colourful and ironically saturnine in its depiction of the gambling Dot Blake, and simply vividly there in its depiction of the Dunmore Inn. Trollope is not lazy: he refers to real people and gets their roles in the trial exactly right; he works at the legalities that Michael Kelly is anxious to put into place before he proposes to Anty. A measure of a novelist's seriousness of intent and sheer effort is how exact he is with his money sums and background history of the characters. Trollope provides the latter for Lord Ballintine too. And he is careful to build a parallel between the two heroes in Chapter 2: it's neatly balanced. It didn't get that way without effort.

We can also see some of Trollope's typical personal obsessions. Michael looks forward to many Trollope males in making sure he will be in control of the money -- at the same time as he is decent and makes sure that if he should die, his then widow Anty will be secure. Lord Ballintine is our ne-er-do well hero we are not supposed to get so angry at. We have racing, debt. There is a build-up of a landscape made up of houses and places which will be used symbolically: Grey Abbey is clearly going to be opposed to Dunmore Inn.

One particularly fine character who does not reappear as a type: Mrs O'Kelly. She is firmly seen: she is hard, has a grating tongue, is forceful but not (like Mrs Proudie) a neurotic tyrant; she is also kind, can calculate where her interests are, but see beyond these. She is one of the best unique characters in the novel: one who does not reappear as a sort of type (in the way Anty does as Miss Mackenzie).

Cheers to all,
Ellen Moody

Date: Sun, 01 Jul 2001

Kellys and O'Kellys: Money and "Schaming”

So far Trollope presents a portrait of a class-divided society that seethes with a violent acquisitive energy. At the topmost layer is the Earl of Cashel, who sits in the House of Lords. He has a ward, Fanny Wyndham, who will reach her 21st birthday with 20,000 pounds. Young Frank (Lord Ballindine) intends to wed her for her money. Although Frank is a landowner he is a poor one. Below Frank is Barry Lynch, the son of an unscrupulous property manager who made the family fortune by cheating his employer. He and his sister Anty each inherited fifty percent of the family wealth. Below Barry is Martin Kelly, who is a farmer on rented land but an ambitious young man, who hopes to rise by marrying Anty, the heiress. Below Martin is the largely nameless class of laborers and servants.

It seems to be all about money -- money and “schaming.”


Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001

It seems that lawyers have always had a bad press - unfairly, I should think. One should remember here their contribution to the Great Revolution. According to G. M. Trevelyan, "The Revolution was a triumph of the lawyers over the executive, the close of a long struggle begun by Coke and Selden to subject the legality of the King's actions to the free judgement of the courts that administered the Common Law. The victory of law over irresponsible and arbitrary power was a splendid triumph for civilization . . ." [A Shortened History of England (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1958), 378].


Suleiman M. Ahmad

Welcome to the list, Suleiman, and thank you for your very sensible, easy-to-understand explanation. I think attorneys and medical professionals have in common, the fact that they become so accustomed to their own distinctive ways of communicating, that they forget that the speech so normal for them, is incomprehensible to laypersons.

Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.
("If you can read this, you're overeducated.")

Can I join with Jill and Ellen in welcoming Suleiman to the list. His definition of 'traverse' has enabled me to understand what is meant in the O'Connell case, and why the defendants in the case were known as 'the traversers'.

I am still rather puzzled that the phrase seems to have passed into general use as a description of the accused. Trollope's use of the word, firstly in the mouth of John Kelly, who, engaged in the law, might have been expected to understand the term, and then in the mouths of the general populace, who cry 'Three cheers for the traversers and Repale for ever!' (K & O'K p. 13, World's Classics edition), seems to imply that the word was familiar to everyone, not only to English literates like himself and his readers, but also to the very involved but not highly educated mass of the Irish population.

I hope that Suleiman will not take my anti-lawyer comments too seriously. My use of the phrase 'Some of my best friends are . . .' which has been one of the refuges of the anti-Semite over the ages, was intended to indicate that I was making a joke. As an accountant, I have been fighting the label of 'bean counter' all my life, and have managed to survive so far. A lawyer who can explain 'traverse' as clearly as Suleiman has done really does not have much to worry about.

Regards, Howard

Date: Mon, 02 Jul 2001

Re: The Kellys and O'Kellys: The Irish Lilt

It seems interesting that a number of people objected to the use of dialects in Rob Roy but have remained silent on the use of dialects in The Kellys and the O'Kellys. Trollope's indication of an Irish accent depends mostly on the pronounciation of the English "ea," which comes from the Anglo-Saxon long open e. Examples of it are in the words "bread," heath," and "great." Notice that in today's English the "ea" is pronounced in three different ways. It wasn't always thus. Shakespeare made homophones over "reason" and "raisin," and Pope, as many of you recall, said: "Great Anna, whom three realms obey, does sometimes council take and sometimes tea." American old men in the boys' books which I read in the 1920s pronounced "deaf" as "deef." Trollope's most frequent demonstration of the Irish accent is the pronounciation "eh" for "ee" in such words as "tea," "feate," etc. However, the letter "t" is often aspirated to "th" in words like "mister," "master," etc. The point here is that this dialect presents few difficulties to the modern British or American reader, where Scott's use of dialect did give some of us great difficulties.


Date: Tue, 03 Jul 2001

In her recent posting Ellen mentioned that the character of Mrs. Kelly was particularly well drawn. I agree. Ellen said that Mrs. Kelly was able to calculate where her interests are and yet see beyond them. She impresses me as a person who is able to take care of herself. She is a widow with five children (though not youngsters), so her road was never going to be an easy one. After her husband died she managed to expand her business to include the selling of groceries. This she did in spite of her husband’s likely improvidence -- he was a drinker. So she seems to thrive on adversity. Yet she thinks about more than just herself and her own interests as we see in her compassionate treatment of Anty, who is in great need of a protector. I thought it was remarkable how many dead fathers we hear about in these first few chapters. Martin’s father, Anty’s father, and Frank’s father -- all dead.

Regarding Martin, it’s interesting that he should take such care over the legalities of Anty’s property. For one thing, there can be no doubt that he is marrying her for her money. She is ten years older than he is and noted for neither beauty or intelligence. (However, she is smarter than her reputation has her) He became interested in her after Moylan, the agent, mentioned that she might agree to a marriage. Yet he’s not crass. He cares what the community will think of him and Anty if he does succeed in marrying her and takes the necessary steps to see that her interests are protected in the event of his death. He doesn’t care to look like a predator. He doesn’t want her to look like prey. Indeed, after we meet Barry Lynch and see what a brute he is, Martin looks like a real prince!

Once Barry steps onto the stage the story gets jump-started. He is repeatedly compared to the devil, which seems appropriate. He’s a villain but very believable, very modern-seeming.

One other thought, which I had in connection with Macdermots and La Vendée as well: this is not the work of an apprentice. Trollope seemed to burst forth fully formed. There must have been things that he wrote and destroyed. I can’t remember hearing about any juvenilia. Was there any?


Date: Wed, 4 Jul 2001


I haven't heard of any Juvenilia. However at least one critic regarded The Kellys and O'Kellys as a prequel to the true Trollope. Michael Sadleir in his biography Trollope, A Commentary describes Trollopes early Irish novels as "the unskilful fumblings of a writer who had not found himself". Having read the first seven chapters of K&OK in one sitting and experienced great difficulty in not reading the whole book at once, I strongly disagree with Sadleir.

I did not find any obvious clues that this was an early work. The characterisation seems as strong as in later novels. Is it obvious to other readers that this is an early Trollope work? I am really pleased that we are reading this book as I probably not have purchased the book otherwise, especially after reading Sadleir's comments.

My complete works of Thackeray has quite a few early works such as A Shabby Genteel Story and The Bedford Row Conspiracy. Can anyone recommend what is worth reading?


Date: Wed, 04 Jul 2001

I agree with Ian that The Kellys and the O'Kellys is something better than the immature fumbling that Sadleir suggested. Just look at Mrs. Kelly's heated conversation with Barry Lynch. Rarely in fiction have I met such carefully plotted anger which reveals not only the reasons for Mrs. Kelly's position but an excellent description of Mrs. Kelly herself. This is not immature fumbling.


July 4, 2001

To Trollope-l

Re: The Kellys and O'Kellys, Chs 1-6: No Juvenilia

It was 7 years ago now when a group of us began our first read of a Trollope novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, people who posted couldn't make up their minds whether they were more surprised at the maturity of the book or the nature of the subject matter (tragic, political and somewhat radical, Irish with many lower class characters central to the story). The key to Sadleir's comments is the unhappy reality that when he wrote his first and still best known book, Trollope: A Commentary he appears not to have read either The Macdermots or The Kellys and O'Kellys_ even half way through. Sadleir says that Thady ends up in gaol for life: Thady is hanged and it's clear he is probably going to be executed from about 2/3s the way through the book. He describes The Kellys and O'Kellys as a "political pamphlet": this suggests he never got beyond the second or third chapter which because they are so dominated by the trial might lead a reader to think we were going to carry on with detailed politics. Since Trollope: A Commentary was first published in 1927 and all that were printed afterwards were slightly changed texts (new introductions), we may hope that Sadleir eventually knew he had goofed.

Why did he write this? Because he wanted to sell Trollope to what he saw as a basically upper class English group of readers like himself. So he argued the "real" Trollope was apolitical, thoroughly English all the time, and wrote just about wholly about the upper classes. If you kept to the Barsetshire and Palliser books, you might conclude that. Sadleir did succeed in reviving Trollope for a group of people and in getting a new edition of the Barsetshire and Palliser books in print.

Rory suggests one reason scholars and writers don't go for Trollope is there are too many books to read. That may be, but unhappily Sadleir is not alone in writing without reading the whole of his subject's oeuvre: I know for a fact (I was told) that several books about Trollope which give the distinct impression the writer has read all the novels, are based on a selection of about 1/3. While I see anti-semitism in Trollope's novels, I know that it is not as strong or continual as is sometimes made out because I've read Nina Balatka and knew that the best male in all The Way We Live Now is a wealthy Jewish male. He is the one truly noble male soul in the book -- has a much larger vision than Sir Roger Carbury.

Ian writes that he has never come across Trollope's juvenilia. None of us have -- because, as Trollope says, he destroyed his writing from his youth. All those long nights in London as a young man after he came in from his "activities" in clubs, on the street, with friends, with women, he then turned to reading and writing. He tells us in his An Autobiography that he kept a kind of desultory journal or diary for years before he began writing The Macdermots (which existed as a one volume book by the time he married -- it reads as if he had written it just before, but the passasge is not clear). N. John Hall has catalogued the leftovers of an attempt to write an enormous History of Literature. He also read voraciously. He left a couple of lists and in An Autobiography cites all sorts of edifying classics, somke of them in Latin. From experience I know that to read a work in Latin is to teach yourself to write better -- because you must parse as you go along. In his story "The Panjandrum" which Sutherland and others (including me) think is autobiographical he tells of an early incident of short story writing of his when he first came to London. I suggest that he began writing in his early 20s so that the time he actually sat down to complete The Macdermots in 1845 he had had about 5 years earnest practice in writing and much real reading and thinking.

We just don't have the Juvenilia. Trollope destroyed it -- as he did most of the letters ever sent him. I hazard a guess that we have some of Trollope's earliest extant writing in fiction in La Vendée. As in Austen's Sense and Sensibility (her first published book) there are passages which are inert, somewhat wooden, not woven in, flat. Perhaps like several novelists of the 19th century the young Trollope first tried his hand at an imitation of Scott. The two early comic Irish stories, ""O'Conors of Castle Conor, County Mayo" and ""Father Giles of Ballymoy" also read like anecdotes; they have a straightforward feel which marks them as somewhat unsophisticated. The narrator recalls "Archibald Green" the name of the narrator in "The Panjandrum": Trollope is of course making fun of himself, green and awkward.

I'm glad Todd agreed with me about what a marvelous character is Mrs Kelly. She is a good instance of Trollope's capacity for complexity through dramatizing incidents and simply telling someone's history and providing dialogue which is really precise in the context of detailed circumstances. Sig points us to the scene between her and Barry. It's a masterpiece of intense concision, movement and psychology as well as sociology.

True enough, there are a lot of dead fathers: "Martin’s father, Anty’s father, and Frank’s father -- all dead." As we go along, we'll meet Lord Cashel who is a magnificent kind of Machiavel -- not a very loving father at all. In Trollope's first book, Thady's father is a drunkard who lives in a semi-delusional belligerent state. There is Father John who is one of Trollope's finest males, but certainly the males we see are not calculated to inspire us with their high- minded nobility. What's wonderful about Father John is how compassionate and down-to-earth, how much of a realist about people he is.

Right now there is little love apparent in Martin for Anty, but as the book goes along we will see he has real tenderness for her, and eventually does love her. We also discover that this is the result of earlier knowledge of her character. This is not Elective Affinities but he's not marrying just anyone; he likes her kindness; her lack of self-esteem suits him, also her timidity. These are not admirable reasons for loving someone, but they are real enough. It's partly that a Martin Kelly is not inclined to wear any heart at all on his sleeve before other men like Lord Ballintine and his lawyer.

Still I have also to agree that the opening scene between the two of them (Chapter 2) as they calculate their respective rent receipts and gains in marriage was not exactly music to my ears: there was an element of slyness, of sordid boasting in it. This is a hard book in a number of ways, not least of it the male brutality and indifference towards women, particularly women's inner life. In many typical novels of this and our period, especially when they are by women, characters are shown to value one another for their inner moral superiority: the subtle nuances of one's behavior signal what we are really worth, and in the end all the best characters marry and succeed based on the essential ethical qualities of their minds. Those who ignore such qualities at least end up miserable in marriage. Trollope's Kellys and O'Kellys returns to an older view of the world -- predomestic, pre-19th century sentiment -- where what counts is 1) lineage, and 2) property. His later novels though move into the terrain of subjective desire more and more.

Cheers to all,

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
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